daily writing

guidelines

deep & light

the deep exercise is one that will require thought and exploration, possibly research. unless you are already an expert in the topic, this will take some work. light is the opposite. it’s not meant to be a meaningful piece of writing, just something fun you can do to relate to the topic, more like a reflection than an academic exercise.

argument

argument exercises are meant to be focused on one side of a debate. it is your job to explain the situation and convince your reader to agree with you.

thought experiment

these are what-if situations. take a few minutes to think about the deeper effect of the idea that’s presented. there will be a silly answer, of course. but the assignment is to look at the subtle, nuanced result and talk about that. dig deep and you’ll find these aren’t as strange as you might originally have imagined.

translation

translation exercises are exactly that but you’re not being asked to provide a literal translation. that’s what automated translation software is for. you’re not translating for exact meaning or content. what you are aiming for is communicating the same idea (or something close to it) in a fluid and natural way. reword, remove and add, change the organization, whatever makes it a better piece of writing. content is relatively unimportant, only whether it’s well-written in the end.

quotation

these quotations are meant to stimulate your mind to explore an idea. most of them are by people you will probably have heard of, maybe know a lot about from school or personal interest. there’s no need to talk about the person or the situation surrounding the actual quotation. talk about the ideas they are exploring in it.

bonus

bonus questions are extras that either don’t fit in one of the other categories or are expansions on them. they are usually extensions of translation exercises.

1 (environment)

deep

the planet is dying but it’s not going to collapse in the next hundred years. we’re all going to be dead before things truly fall apart. why do we care what happens in someone else’s lifetime?

light

ice is my friend.

argument

we should stop drilling for and using oil immediately regardless of the cost.

thought experiment

what would happen if you stopped spending money on anything but the essentials of food, shelter, etcetera?

translation

go to your favorite national newspaper and take one of the top articles on the environment and translate it to english.

bonus

write a newspaper article about an environmental issue relevant to your neighborhood.

quotation

conquer yourself as it is better than ten thousand victories in foreign lands. (the buddha)

2 (weather)

deep

does it truly matter what the weather is? have you ever been truly happy and at peace in the middle of a storm with wind and rain swirling around you?

light

there is no better color for clouds than pink.

argument

umbrellas should be outlawed.

thought experiment

what would happen if weather forecasts were randomized and we had no idea what it would be like outside until it happened?

translation

listen to your local (radio, online or television) weather forecast and write it in english.

bonus

write the forecast for the day in your life you enjoyed the most and comment on what effect the weather that day had on your feelings at the time.

quotation

love is the absence of judgment. (his holiness the dalai lama xiv)

3 (friendship)

deep

are there limits to what you would do for a true friend? would you help them do something that you believed was wrong? save them from persecution even if they had hurt someone?

light

holding hands is the best thing ever.

argument

marriage is just long-term friendship. there’s no reason for ceremonies or paperwork.

thought experiment

how far would you go, if you moved to a new place and knew nobody, to ensure your first friend was your ideal platonic partner?

translation

listen to or read an extended dialogue between two friends or partners and translate it to english.

bonus

would this conversation ever happen in an english-speaking culture?

quotation

the journey is itself my home. (basho)

4 (travel)

deep

in a world where airplanes and cars are turning the planet into an apocalyptic wasteland, is there really an argument to be made anymore for recreational travel?

light

i believe i can fly.

argument

cross-cultural interaction is the only way to prevent war.

thought experiment

what would happen if countries no longer existed?

translation

select your favorite travel publication, either print or online, and translate the first article whose destination you would like to visit.

bonus

write a travel article about your city.

quotation

to know another you must walk a year with their feet. (traditional native american saying)

5 (society)

deep

what is the one word that defines the best approach to society? harmony? peace? tranquility? equality? competition? strength?

light

darkness is an illusion but light is real.

argument

i am simply a mirror of my childhood, bent according to my pain.

thought experiment

what would it be like to return to a time before civilization? would we still be human?

translation

translate the liner notes for your favorite album at the moment.

bonus

write the notes for the album you’d like to make if you had started a band.

quotation

go your own way. (lindsey buckingham, fleetwood mac)

6 (equality)

deep

are all humans equal?

light

one plus one is three.

argument

i’m not unique and neither are you.

thought experiment

can a society without competition or greed exist?

translation

select a short historical political speech and translate it into informal, everyday english.

bonus

write a short commentary on whether it makes sense to say it in english.

quotation

no news is good news. (traditional english idiom)

7 (childhood)

deep

what is the purpose of childhood? does it really matter in an age where all information is available at the touch of a screen?

light

i miss my stuffed toys.

argument

teens are the smartest people alive.

thought experiment

given that democracy is a failed experiment because people are greedy, if we restricted voting only to those between 15 and 25, would it be potentially successful?

translation

translate the blurb on the back of any book.

bonus

think about whether the book would work well in english and why that’s the case.

quotation

kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. they remember what you are. (jim henson)

8 (peace)

deep

is peace possible in the modern world?

light

flower power.

argument

self-interest is the opposite of harmony.

thought experiment

if we tried to develop a system of laws based on the assumption that we wouldn’t know what position we would have to occupy in the future, would those laws be fair?

translation

select a song you like and write a translation in idiomatic english.

bonus

write that song as a formal news story.

quotation

darkness cannot drive out darkness. only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate. only love can do that. (dr martin luther king jr)

9 (school)

deep

what is the value of being intelligent? educated? culturally informed?

light

books are better than real life.

argument

those who are most intelligent are best suited to make decisions for others.

thought experiment

if leaders were required to be highly intelligent, would the world be such a disaster?

translation

translate a popular science article into formal english. use one aimed at adults rather than children as the technical terms will be more challenging that way.

bonus

translate a short interview with a scientist or philosopher.

quotation

education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. (nelson mandela)

10 (faith)

deep

what were you once told that you now know is not worth believing true?

light

why is the sky blue?

argument

teaching children supernatural ideas as if they were true is immoral.

thought experiment

what would your country look like if people didn’t identify themselves and others by their religious affiliation?

translation

translate a creation story from your culture into english.

bonus

write a new version of any creation myth as if it happened when you were born.

quotation

how slowly you walk makes no difference if you don’t stop. (confucius)

11 (adolescence)

deep

what were you like as a teen? do you regret it? wish you could go back? forget most of it?

light

lucy in the sky with diamonds.

argument

an adult is a person who knows how to think deeply, whether thirteen or thirty. age is irrelevant and those who never learn critical thought should never be considered adults with adult rights and responsibilities.

thought experiment

what would happen if human life simply ended at thirty?

translation

translate your favorite song from when you were a teen to english.

bonus

rewrite the song as if it was written in today’s world and explain why it’s different.

quotation

spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. (e m forster)

12 (politics)

deep

what is wrong with your country’s political system? what is right? what would you change? how?

light

the king is dead. long live the king.

argument

it is better to live in harmony than be free.

thought experiment

what does government really matter if you are safe?

translation

translate (at least part of) the wikipedia article about your country’s leader into english.

bonus

write an article about yourself as if you were head of state.

quotation

it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. (niccolò machiavelli)

13 (monkeys)

deep

is it wise to use monkeys and other primates in medical testing? ethical? moral?

light

i am a mirror.

argument

society’s prohibition of murder must extend to all animal life as there is no biological difference between human, monkey, dog and horse.

thought experiment

what would it be like to live in the trees?

translation

translate the dialog from a drama where people are talking naturally.

bonus

write your day’s thoughts from the perspective of a monkey.

quotation

we all want canaan without going through the wilderness. (ravi zacharias)

14 (elephants)

deep

how does your view of the world, mental and physical, change depending on your size? speed? vulnerability?

light

all the world’s a stage.

argument

those who are strong must protect those who are weak.

thought experiment

if you had a flexible nose that could reach to the ground, how would your experience of daily life have to change?

translation

translate the “about us” section of a large rail provider or airline’s site in your country.

bonus

write about your daily life as if it was the “about us” section of a corporate site.

quotation

you are wise, knowing you know nothing. (socrates)

15 (birthdays)

deep

why does celebration matter?

light

you’re only as old as you feel.

argument

predictability is more important in the long run than pleasure or happiness.

thought experiment

if you didn’t know how old you were and nobody else did, either, what would that change about your daily life?

translation

translate the first chapter of the first book you were given as a gift.

bonus

write the message you would write to yourself on a birthday card for your fifteenth birthday.

quotation

there are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still. (franklin d roosevelt)

16 (furniture)

deep

why does how you decorate your house matter? what change does it make to your life?

light

my bed is my castle.

argument

if you’re alone, you can feel home anywhere. if you’re with others, you can only feel home somewhere special.

thought experiment

what would it be like to live in a house with no furniture but a mat to sleep on and a cushion to sit on?

translation

translate the descriptions of several pieces of furniture selling at your favorite home store.

bonus

describe yourself as a piece of furniture. would you be a chair? a bed? a sofa? a table? a bookcase?

quotation

the more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. (walt disney)

17 (mountains)

deep

being above the rest of the world is a huge shift in perspective. what is its impact on you? is that different from your first time on a mountain?

light

where’s the real highway to hell?

argument

recreational chemicals should be outlawed regardless of history and treated the same — alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, coffee.

thought experiment

what would a flat world be like to live in?

translation

translate a folk tale into idiomatic english.

bonus

in some cultures, places like mountains have physical traits. what would you be like as a topographical element?

quotation

i get by with a little help from my friends. (john lennon & paul mccartney)

18 (rivers)

deep

what was it like the first time you took a boat ride? was it frightening to leave the shore behind? how did it feel when you arrived on land again?

light

fish are the perfect shape.

argument

rivers are like the blood vessels in the human body and must be protected from harm and kept pristine with the same force.

thought experiment

what would it be like to live in a world where the only water we encountered was when we drank and washed?

translation

translate the dialog from an ad on television or youtube (or your favorite local video provider) into idiomatic english.

bonus

what do bridges mean to you? literally? figuratively?

quotation

imagination is more important than knowledge. (albert einstein)

19 (pets)

deep

is childhood experience around other species important for development and empathy? does it matter whether those species are wild or live in your house?

light

woof. meow. neigh.

argument

human control of other animal species should be outlawed to give all life equal status.

thought experiment

what would a world controlled by horses, dogs or cats look like with humans as a secondary species?

translation

translate the first news article on your national news site.

bonus

what would be your traits if you were to describe yourself in non-human language?

quotation

dogs never bite me. only humans. (marilyn monroe)

20 (transportation)

deep

is it important to have a mode of transportation where you can be alone?

light

getting out of bed is hard. getting back in is harder.

argument

standardization is more important than choice.

thought experiment

if you could do the work you most desire every day, would your life really be better?

translation

translate an ad for a job you’d like to have.

bonus

describe your life without the ability to do anything other than walk to get places.

quotation

you can have any color you want as long as it’s black. (henry ford, attributed)

21 (protest)

deep

why has protest never been successful?

light

quiet makes me happy. loud makes me sad.

argument

it is better to follow the rules than to risk anything to change them.

thought experiment

if the one thing you think most important to change about your country’s laws was changed, what would be different specifically about your life?

translation

translate a page from a religious book.

bonus

what’s different about how you think now from when you were twelve?

quotation

things do not change. we change. (henry david thoreau)

22 (clothing)

deep

why does it matter what you wear?

light

i love hats.

argument

to have real choice in fashion, all clothing must be the same cost everywhere.

thought experiment

if you had to wear the same thing for the rest of your life, what would it be and how would that feel to you?

translation

translate the descriptions of clothing from your favorite designer.

bonus

if you were an item of clothing, what would you be?

quotation

fashion is architecture. (coco chanel)

23 (shopping)

deep

what makes shopping fun?

light

i only have two feet so i only need two shoes.

argument

fast fashion is destroying our ability to be satisfied by anything in life.

thought experiment

if everything was free but space was limited, what would you have in your bedroom?

translation

translate the ad for a recent movie you’d like to see.

bonus

describe your route to get to and from your local shopping mall.

quotation

buy land. they’re not making it anymore. (mark twain)

24 (music)

deep

is music really good or just popular?

light

singing is better than life.

argument

music should be free for everyone and arts should be paid for by the state.

thought experiment

what would music be like if you couldn’t hear?

translation

translate the three most popular songs in your country this week.

bonus

describe how you feel when you dance to music.

quotation

music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. (ludwig van beethoven)

25 (dreams)

deep

what do you want most from life? is it achievable? what would you sacrifice for it?

light

sleepy.

argument

early bedtimes make better people.

thought experiment

what would change about your life if you didn’t have to sleep?

translation

translate a lullaby.

bonus

rewrite it as a political speech or radio broadcast.

quotation

always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. (mahatma gandhi)

26 (work)

deep

is your daily life happy?

light

weekends are why you work, right?

argument

a life without work isn’t worth staying alive for.

thought experiment

if all work was done by computers, would you feel satisfied with your life?

translation

translate the last five pages of your favorite book.

bonus

did you expect it at the beginning? does expectation matter?

quotation

art raises its head where creeds relax. (friedrich nietzsche)

27 (truth)

deep

is honesty important for life or just harmony?

light

webs of lies snare humans like flies.

argument

we live in a post-truth world.

thought experiment

what would happen if all politicians were legally required to tell the truth or be executed?

translation

translate a popular fairy tale.

bonus

rewrite a politician’s campaign platform as a fairy tale.

quotation

truth is beautiful, without doubt, but so are lies. (ralph waldo emerson)

28 (fiction)

deep

what makes a book worth reading?

light

our stories are what make us human.

argument

good fiction is a viable alternative to living in the real world.

thought experiment

if virtual reality was indistinguishable from daily life, what would change? would anything?

translation

translate the opening voiceover from a video game.

bonus

write your routine thoughts from any time in the day as if they were a voiceover script for animation.

quotation

letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems. (bill watterson)

29 (art)

deep

is beauty objective or simply something you have learned to feel?

light

red, white and blue.

argument

art should be free for everyone to see, touch, experience or it is worthless to us as a species.

thought experiment

if our experience of images visually could feel as real as having them in reality next to us, would we think differently about the value of artwork and ownership?

translation

translate the description of your favorite items in a museum.

bonus

what do you own that someday could be thought of as an archaeological artifact?

quotation

history is a relentless master. it has no present, only the past rushing into the future. to try to hold fast is to be swept aside. (john f kennedy)

30 (past)

deep

how do you know what happened when you were little? before you were born? hundreds of years ago?

light

were you born or did you just start to exist?

argument

the past is just what we agree to believe.

thought experiment

if someone told you all human history before a hundred years ago was fake, would you be able to convince them they were wrong?

translation

look up today in history and select an event to translate from wikipedia or another online source.

bonus

what is the most memorable day you have experienced? would anyone else understand why it matters?

quotation

what is history but a fable agreed? (napoleon bonaparte)

31 (celebration)

deep

what’s worth celebrating?

light

chocolate.

argument

life would be far better for everyone if we didn’t have standardized weekdays and weekends, just schedules were we all worked four days a week but different four days for different people.

thought experiment

if there were no more candles, what would you use to mark birthday celebrations?

translation

open any book you own to a random page. translate that section of the book.

bonus

write what you wish happened next in the book.

quotation

knowing others is intelligence, yourself wisdom. mastering others is strength, yourself power. (lao tzu)

extra (oceans)

deep

if the world is mostly covered in ocean, why do we live on land?

light

it ain’t easy bein’ green. (kermit the frog)

argument

fish deserve to die no more than humans do therefore fishing is immoral.

thought experiment

if we treated our oceans with the same obsessive attention we devoted to our clothes and makeup, what would the world look like?

translation

translate a fairy tale told from the perspective of an animal.

bonus

write your daily experience as narrated from that animal’s perspective.

quotation

whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. (walter cronkite)

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